Elements of persuasion in the rhetoric of Njal's Saga
Kastinger Riley, Helene M.
Wilson, Joseph B.
Master of Arts
The objectivity of the narrative style has been frequently cited by literary critics as one of the most perspicuous characteristics of Islendingasogur. In more recent studies, however, saga objectivity has undergone closer scrutiny, and various forms of author intrusion have been found to exist in the narrative of family sagas. These forms consist of the interjection of subjective elements by the author or narrator which influence the reader's judgment regarding the evaluation of saga characters. In this study N.ial's Saga has been chosen as the model for the investigation of the author's persuasive technique. Aside from the fact that it is the best and most well-known among the family sagas, it has the advantage of containing an unusually large number of characters. An analysis of the characterization reveals that the author’s method of persuasion contains a wide number and variety of rhetorical devices which manipulate the reader's judgment. These devices form three basic categories: a) descriptive elements, which pertain to the interjection of direct or indirect evaluative statements made by the author or narrator concerning saga characters, b) stylistic elements, which derive their persuasive effect from distinctly literary devices of rhetorical construction; and c) didactic elements, which manipulate the reader's perspective by presenting the actions of saga characters within the framework of a moral and social standard of behavior advocated by the author. The use of these persuasive devices is very widespread in the saga. Their effectiveness results from a repetitive and cumulative action and interaction between the various elements, which conditions the reader's judgment. At the same time, the persuasive aspect of the author's rhetoric is successfully hidden to the casual observer by the observation of a strict outward appearance of objectivity.